Strands

I

Follow your dream. Not in the vague, airy-fairy way they tell you to at school. Your dream is a fox in a wood, spiced with red-russet fur. You can just see it through the trees, the splash of its tail, or perhaps all you have of it is its smell. Maybe there’s a paw print peeking out of the leaf mould. These are the clues you have to follow. But you cannot chase the fox at the expense of the forest. You cannot just run. To follow this dream you have to stop and fall back into the scene, into the bark like a shroud on every tree, the rich scent of the earth after rain, the clouds come down almost to the ground. Notice these things, make them a part of you, melt into them like a leaf breaks down into the soil. And when all that is left of you is a breath on the air, the fox will appear before you, a red sun in the clearing, all the dream you have ever needed or known.

II

Now you can hear them, because you are quiet. Your words, softly bursting snowdrops of the brain, blossoming only where the soil is thin. Putting roots down into you and shooting up in buds and leaves on the strength of the nutrients they find. But they are not your flowers. People will come past and stare into your garden and say gosh, what a splendid crop of snowdrops. What a good gardener our neighbour is. And you’ll smile behind your curtains and say nothing. Because you know the truth. You didn’t grow those flowers. You just gave them a space to grow themselves. A place where the soil is thin but borders on something deeper. A place coned in quiet. The only thing you ever had to do to make this garden prosper is to say nothing, and let the sun and rain reach through you to the blooms.

III

Every atom of you produces sunlight. The odds and ends that make up your heart, they remember being stars. People squint at you, and they see not just light but the history of light, flaring back beyond the bounds of the universe they know. You glow. You gleam in a way that makes trees find their hips and sway, makes mountains consent to becoming sand. Your body odor has a sweetness that others do not carry: a whiff of the first apple, the scent of every seed that has grown to fruit over the aching ages when you yourself were growing out of being a star and into being a man. You are alive, brother, because you are the memory of dead things. And so the winter fears you. It scurries back damply from your feet, leaves you dancing on nothing but dirt. And because you know how to be a man you put down roots, you grow there. And because you know how to be a star, you glow.

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